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Concludes Twentieth Regular Session
6 July 2012

The Human Rights Council this afternoon named John Knox as the Independent Expert on human rights and the environment and announced the members of the fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements before closing its twentieth regular session.

Laura Dupuy Lasserre, President of the Human Rights Council, announced the appointment of John Knox as Independent Expert on human rights and the environment.  This decision was based on Mr. Knox’s experience in the field of human rights, environmental international law, climate change and the interrelations among these issues.  
Ms. Dupuy Lasserre said she had appointed Christine Chanet, Unity Dow, and Asma Jahangir to carry out the Council’s fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The mission would be chaired by Ms. Chanet.  They each had a long track record of impartial, independent and objective human rights work of the highest caliber.  The President reiterated the Council’s request to Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission.

Gulnara Iskakova, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council and Rapporteur, presented the draft report of the twentieth session.  It was adopted ad referendum.

Norway, on behalf of a group of countries, Italy, Thailand and Bangladesh made explanations of the vote after the vote after action on resolutions under the agenda item on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention was concluded.
Observer States and others making general comments after the Council finished taking action on resolutions were Venezuela, United Kingdom on behalf of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and Singapore.  International Service for Human Rights, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples and Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” also took the floor.  

Documentation, statements, resolutions and reports relating to this and all Human Rights Council sessions are available on its webpage.  The twentieth session, which was presided over by Ms. Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay, was held from 18 June to 6 July 2012.  The twenty-first regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 10 to 28 September 2012. 

Statements Following Completion of Action on Resolutions Under Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Norway, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on behalf of a group of countries, in relation to resolution A/HRC/20/L.7 concerning the human rights situation in Belarus, said that Norway welcomed the resolution.  The resolution made reference in operative paragraph 1 to violations of due process.  It should be noted by the Council that Norway would interpret that as including the deeply regrettable application of the death penalty.  It would be useful if the Special Rapporteur looked into application of the death penalty in Belarus, in compliance with internationally recognized standards.  Norway urged Belarus to establish a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty.  The Human Rights Council should pay due attention to the matter.

Italy, speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote on resolution A/HRC/20/L.19 on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said that Italy strongly encouraged Eritrean authorities to take the resolution adopted today as a starting point to strengthen its communication with the rest of the world.  The Special Rapporteur should not be seen as a sanction but as an opportunity.  Italy hoped that Eritrea would establish a good working relationship with the Special Rapporteur.

Thailand, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on resolution A/HRC/20/L.22/Rev.1 on the situation of human rights in Syria, said Thailand would have preferred that the amendment proposed by the Russian Federation had encompassed all acts of violence, including terrorist acts.  Thailand nevertheless supported the amendment with an interpretation based on the reports of terrorist acts in Syria that had claimed innocent lives.  On the resolution, although Thailand voted in support of the draft out of genuine concerns about the deteriorating situation and for the people of Syria, the text could have been further improved.  The Council should remain vigilant and take into account developments on the ground in a realistic manner, including those developments that may result from the recent expression of support from the Syrian authorities towards international initiatives.  The international community should stand ready to support an inclusive political dialogue among the Syrian people that encompassed their aspirations without prejudging any outcome.

Bangladesh, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, spoke with reference to resolution A/HRC/20/L.22 on the human rights situation in Syria.  Bangladesh had a principled position of not supporting country specific resolutions, without the consent of the country concerned.  Bangladesh reiterated the need for a reassessment of whether such a resolution had any significant added value.  It was in solidarity with the concerns of Arab League countries, and welcomed the six-point plan of the Joint Special Envoy.  Bangladesh strongly believed that any action in Syria should only be led by the Syrian Government, through a constructive dialogue, and in respect of its sovereignty.  Violence by all parties responsible should be condemned.  Bangladesh would have appreciated if Russia’s amendment had been included.  As an exception to its principled position, to end bloodshed and misery in Syria, Bangladesh had voted in favour of the draft resolution.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, condemned the resolution which appointed a Special Rapporteur in Belarus without the country’s consent, which constituted interference in the internal Belarusian affairs.  In the case of Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and now Belarus, the Council’s credibility had been undermined by decisions taken in a selective manner and targeting specific countries.  

Statements by Observer States and Others at End of Council Taking Action on Resolutions

United Kingdom, speaking in a general comment also on behalf of the Netherlands in relation to resolution A/HRC/20/L.16 on the promotion of the right to peace, said that they remained of the firm view that this right did not exist under international law.  There was no justification for intergovernmental negotiations aimed at adopting a declaration on the right to peace.  The creation of the open-ended Working Group was an overly political act.  This was a highly expensive mechanism, drawing attention and funds away from more important tasks of the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The document was deeply flawed, also potentially inconsistent with international norms, including the United Nations Charter.  If the United Kingdom and the Netherlands had been Members of the Council, they would have voted against the resolution.

Singapore, speaking in a general comment, said that Singapore was concerned about the resolution on military service, which should taken into account the specific circumstances operative in the case of the countries concerned.  In reality States could not take peace and stability for granted, and smaller countries such as Singapore were obliged to have compulsory conscription.  Singapore would engage in constructive dialogue with the Council in order to promote a better understanding of the conscientious objection to military service. 

Egypt, concerning resolution A/HRC/20/L.10 on violence against women, expressed full support for the initiative addressing violence against women in all its forms.  Egypt regretted not having been able to co-sponsor the resolution. 

Palestine welcomed the establishment of the fact-finding mission to look into Israeli settlements, and extended a warm welcome to the members.  Palestine expressed sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the President of the Council, the High Commissioner, the Secretariat and all colleagues for their highly appreciated efforts, and commended them for their objectivity, neutrality and professionalism.  Palestine demanded that Israel abide by the rules and principles of international law, and urged it to fully cooperate with the members of the mission, to refrain from measures that would impede the fulfilling of the mandate, and to allow unhindered access to occupied Palestine.  Palestine remained confident that members of the mission would spare no effort in fulfilling their respective mandate and looked forward to the presentation of the report, no later than at the twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council of March 2013.

International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement, welcomed the resolutions that the Council had adopted but also expressed regret that the Council had failed to provide justice to victims in Syria through an International Criminal Court referral.  Concerning the participation of non-governmental organizations, the organizations noted with regret the attempts to undermine the speaking right of non-governmental organizations in informal discussions of the Council.

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples invited the States which had rejected or abstained from the vote on resolution L.16 on the right to peace to work more closely and constructively with the Council.  It expressed surprise at the Council’s silence when Israel announced that it was going to end its cooperation with the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner.

Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru said that resolutions backed by the European Union and the United States, adopted on the human rights situation in Syria, Belarus, and Eritrea and calling for the appointment of Special Rapporteurs without the consent of the States in question were beyond the true expression of fundamental human rights and freedoms.   Authors of these resolutions, the United States in particular, were themselves the worst violators of the human rights of their own indigenous peoples.  Tupaj Amaru deeply regretted that the Russian-proposed amendment to the resolution on Syria was not accepted.  It deduced by this that the resolution was aimed at regime change.

For use of the information media; not an official record